The Practice of Parking Requirements

Zoning Practice — January 2006

By Donald Shoup, FAICP


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Cities have needed parking spaces ever since the two-wheeled chariot was invented in Sumeria about 5,000 years ago, but parking did not become a pandemic problem until the 20th century when cars appeared in great numbers.

Columbus, Ohio, became the first U.S. city to establish a parking requirement for any type of land use when it began to require off-street parking for apartment houses in 1923. Fresno, California, in turn, became the first U.S. city to establish parking requirements for any land uses other than housing when it began to require off-street parking for hotels and hospitals in 1939. Although off-street parking requirements are now more than 80 years old, no textbooks in urban planning and transportation explain them.

This issue of Zoning Practice critiques minimum parking requirements by describing how city planners typically determine and apply off-street parking requirements.


Page Count
Date Published
Jan. 1, 2006
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Donald Shoup, FAICP
Donald Shoup, FAICP, is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research has focused on transportation, public finance, and land economics, with emphasis on how parking policies affect cities, the economy, and the environment. In his landmark 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup recommended that cities should (1) charge fair market prices for on-street parking, (2) spend the revenue to improve public services in the metered neighborhoods, and (3) remove off-street parking requirements. In his 2018 book, Parking and the City, Shoup and his co-authors examined the results where cities have adopted these policies. The successful outcomes show this trio of reforms may be the simplest, cheapest, and fastest way to improve cities, protect the environment, and promote social justice. Shoup is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an Honorary Professor at the Beijing Transportation Research Center. The American Planning Association gave Shoup its National Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer, and the American Collegiate Schools of Planning gave him its Distinguished Educator Award.